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The Carden Alvar (Kirkfield) Part 3 of 3 – North Bear Alvar and Kris Starr Trails Review
OK, I studied the Carden Alvar for quite some time, in search of trails. There was alot of confusion for me because it seems no one loves the alvar more than birders … and birders don’t care about trails, unless there are birds on them. Birds can fly, so they don’t care about trails either. But I could see trails from satellite views, so we swung by the alvar on our return from exploring the Muskoka region one afternoon. We found enough trails to spend three days with our “feet on the ground, lookin’ around”.
This is my third and final issue on the Carden Alvar trails. Part # 1 is here Carden Alvar Sedge Wren Marsh & Cameron Ranch Trails Review, and part 2 is here: Carden Alvar Prairie Smoke, Little Bluestem, & Grassland Loop Trails Review
The North Bear Alvar (3.4 km loop)
Get to this one from Kirkfield, by taking Cty Rd # 6 (Kirkfield rd) for 16.5 kms and turn right on Lake Dalrymple road. Continue 4 kms to Alvar rd and turn right again. At 3.5 kms you’ll see it on the left. You’ll be parking on the roadside for this one. This link will open Google Maps at the trailhead :
This trail came as a bit of a surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting it to be as well marked as it was, nor complete with on-trail maps with “you are here” and all kinds of trail interpretation signage. There was even a kiosk with info and such. I say that because, though the Carden Alvar impressed me greatly, there was “something different” about this North Bear Alvar. Something that made me feel small, insignificant, and alone. Were it not for the Wife at my side, I’d have felt like the only person on the planet (and I do so like that feeling of solitude).
This trail starts as an ATV path that remains wide enough for five to walk at the shoulder. It’s an open air trail past towering trees and across wide meadows. The trail from the kiosk will lead you to a loop, which we took to the right.
A personal thrill for us was when the Wife discovered a huge Imperial Moth. We’d never seen one before. It had left it’s cocoon very recently since the antennae weren’t even out yet, and it was still wet.
After more wandering between scattered patches of trees and meadows, you’ll come to a huge open space where you’ll feel like you’re the only person on Earth as it’s so quiet and open to the sky, with no trace of humanity (except the trail markers). I’ll describe the trail markers as wooden 2”X 2” boards with red reflectors on them. They’re embedded in concrete pads, and some have little flags on them. There are plenty of them too. In the big grassland, we had to stop and look around once or twice, but … not a problem.
Then there’s a very well constructed boardwalk of some 130 meters across a wet grassland (the one you just walked through might be a tad damp too).
Once past the boardwalk, you’ll meet the trail back to the road. There are two yellow return trails that will offer more of the same viewing and walking conditions.
The Kris Starr Sanctuary (1.3 kms)
This sanctuary is located at the extreme Northern end of the Carden Alvar. It’s on Monck Rd. (Cty Rd #45) 4.5 kms West of the village of Uphill. This link will open Google Maps on the road between the two trails : https://goo.gl/maps/Xh47DWyb4r5dUfbq7
The Southern trail, is just off Turner Rd. right at where the West end of Turner runs into Monck. It’s very well marked with large clear signage. It’s a short trail (less than a km) that winds up and down granitic ridges rather near Monck Rd. That means the traffic sounds are quite audible for the entire trail.
The Northern trail is almost directly across Monck Rd. and is also clearly signed. This trail is considerably wetter and features a beaver pond which, I think, the “loop” is supposed to run along the edge of. However, we tried approaching the loop from both directions, and still had to bushwhack across a short stretch of rocky, shrubby shoreline to complete it. This trail is also less than a kilometer in length and the sound (and sight) of Monck rd’s traffic was very apparent.
The Final Take
The North Bear Alvar is a secluded, quiet space with a wonderful feeling of solitude. So much so, that were it not for the very good markers and many interpretive signs, I’d have almost begun to feel uncomfortable. The wide open vistas, and majestic forests are almost humbling. The trailbed is compacted soil, stone, and boardwalks, well wide enough for two to walk side by side, and flat as a pancake. I didn’t notice any dog walking restrictions, but numerous other reviews I read, mentioned the “Bear” part of the name is appropriate (so you might wanna be careful). There are no facilities at all (not even a parking area). This trail left me with my favourite memories of the Alvar region. That’s saying alot as I really came to love the dead silence, seclusion, and wide open skies the Carden Alvar provided us.
The Kris Starr trails are quite short and kinda traffic noisy, but still rather pretty and charming. Regardless, if you’re in the Carden Alvar region, you might as well drop by and take an hour or so to look over this sanctuary.
Have a nice walk,